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10 Steps to a highly effective IT Help Desk in 2014

December 18, 2013 • Opinion, Southern Africa

It is that time of the year again when you sit down, take stock of your IT Help Desk’s performance these past 12 months, and chart a course for success in the new year. Call them New Year resolutions, departmental priorities, or simply a plan of action, whatever the name, we’ve decided to go ahead and do the heavy lifting for you by creating a list of things you could focus on in 2014.

Kumaravel Ramakrishnan, Marketing Analyst with ManageEngine. (Image source: ManageEngine)

Kumaravel Ramakrishnan, Marketing Analyst with ManageEngine. (Image source: ManageEngine)

So without further adieu we present the 10 Steps to a highly effective Help Desk.

1.       Get a Grasp on the Metrics that Matter. You cannot manage what you don’t measure. It is important that you list and measure a set of KPIs that  help you to track your Help Desk performance. Metrics not only help define your Help Desk’s success, but can be used to hold everyone accountable for achieving it. Insight on key metrics like First Call Resolution Rate, Average Resolution Time, Percentage of SLA compliance, Average End user Satisfaction Rate, Technician Utilization, and Cost per Call can all definitely help you measure a Help Desk’s effectiveness.

2.       Establish Clear Goals for your Helpdesk. Setting clear and attainable goals for your Helpdesk is vital to a highly effective Help Desk. Goals such as getting that First Call Resolution (FCR) rate to 80%, lowering your Average Speed of Answer to 40 seconds, bringing your SLA compliance level to 75% or getting the Average End user Satisfaction Rating over 90% are all examples of  how specific your goals should be. Once you have your goals set, you can plan a course to achieving them. Publish these goals so everyone knows what to strive for and consider putting an incentive out there if the goals are met.

3.       Listen to End Users and Act on Feedback. If you haven’t been surveying your end users for feedback you are part of the tiny minority in the Service Management world that doesn’t. You can either roll out surveys after each incident is resolved for immediate performance improvement in specific areas or you could schedule annual surveys to measure overall performance and satisfaction levels. Effective surveys are commonly designed to take end user input on the timeliness of response and resolution, effectiveness of the resolution, communication and attitude of the help desk staff, but you could include questions that are more directly tied to your metrics and goals you’ve already set. A good best practice is to make sure the survey results are translated into a service improvement plan so your help desk is better known for not just receiving complains but also for acting on them!

4.       Improve Self Service Adoption. If you are still accepting tickets by email and phone only, it is time you consider deflecting a significant portion of your help desk calls to a end user self-service portal. With quality knowledge articles, some strong search functionality, and the ability to quickly and easily submit tickets, Self Service portals can be of enormous benefit to both end users and the Help desk team by reducing support costs and improving user experience. Market the Self Service Portal internally by promoting the URL of the portal, having technicians share links to KB articles with end users, and running campaigns to market the benefits with video.

5.       Encourage Knowledge Base Submissions. An effective knowledge base effectively reduces call volumes, improves technician productivity, and increases end user satisfaction. You can start with a simple FAQ list addressing issues that users call about the most and add new documentation on the way. A good tip is to ensure that your knowledge base is on a platform that allows for easy searching and submitting from end users, while also allowing the admin a simple way to publish, share, and organize knowledge articles.  Identify users who can work with technicians and other staff for content creation and review. Including specific monthly targets on knowledge base submissions as a KPI for technician performance is an added motivation.

6.       Invest in Training for Service Desk Staff. Training is like car insurance: you may not need it right now, but it comes in handy when you do.  Training enables your service desk staff to confidently handle any question that comes their way. Apart from on the job training, a formal training program can help develop skills, knowledge, and confidence in your service desk team. Come up with a training plan and set aside budget and time to train your service desk staff throughout the year.

7.       Publish a Service Catalog for your End Users. A Service Catalog brings consistency and structure to the interface between end users and IT help desk teams. While IT showcase services they offer, end users who consume the services can easily access them to submit requests, check availability of technicians, and understand SLAs or departmental costs. To get started with a Service Catalog, all you need to do is:

  • Prepare a list of all services you currently offer.
  • Work with stakeholders to identify agreeable SLAs for them. ·
  • Define Service Categories grouping relevant services together.

As the Service Catalog evolves over time, you will realize how the catalog driven, centralized request management can standardize your processes, reduce helpdesk costs and enhance user experience.

8.       Refresh your Help Desk Technology. If your helpdesk is still driven by legacy tools, you are missing out big opportunities to improve the effectiveness of your Help Desk. New features from leading Help Desk solutions can now automate workflows, offer remote support, and provide advanced analytics and dashboards, all while being highly mobile enabled to boot. The cloud is fast becoming a popular option if you want to free yourself from the chains of application maintenance. On Premise or On Cloud, the choice may depend on your IT operations and budget.

9.       Focus on Best Practices Implementation. Implementing best practices for your Help Desk saves you a lot of trouble and time in day to day operations. ITIL aligned processes help you communicate better with end users, reduce costly escalations, and evaluate the impact on services. Implementing ITIL type practices ensures all changes are routed through the IT help desk which allows you to prevent and track unauthorized changes and releases. Many experts point to the use of ITIL best practices as one of the most effective ways to immediately improve your Help Desk.

10.   Celebrate Success. Big or Small Some would argue that the success of your Help Desk ultimately depends on how happy and motivated your technicians are. Tackling issues and answering tickets all day can be quite stressful for technicians as you well know.  By tracking and consistently rewarding top performers and sharing success stories within the organization, technicians will stay motivated to hit goals. Celebrate System Administrator Appreciation Day (affectionately known as SysAdmin Day), or create other ways to help people show their appreciation for your team.

How’s that for a head start on 2014? You may decide to implement some or all of the steps mentioned above as your needs dictate, but remember to start small, stay consistent and improve along the way for best results. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and highly effective help desk in 2014!

Kumaravel Ramakrishnan, Marketing Analyst with ManageEngine

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